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The Journal Gazette

Monday, March 19, 2018 1:00 am

President has plan for opioid addiction

Death penalty option for drug traffickers

DARLENE SUPERVILLE | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's plan to combat opioid drug addiction calls for stiffer penalties for drug traffickers, including the death penalty where appropriate under current law, a top administration official said Sunday. It's a fate for drug dealers that Trump, who aims to be seen as tough on crime, has been highlighting publicly in recent weeks.

Trump also wants Congress to pass legislation reducing the amount of drugs needed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who knowingly distribute certain illicit opioids, said Andrew Bremberg, Trump's domestic policy director, who briefed reporters Sunday on the plan Trump is scheduled to unveil today in New Hampshire, a state hard-hit by the crisis.

The president will be joined by first lady Melania Trump, who has shown an interest in the issue, particularly as it pertains to her focus on child welfare.

Death for drug traffickers and mandatory minimum penalties for distributing certain opioids are just two elements under the part of Trump's plan that deals with law enforcement and interdiction to break the international and domestic flow of drugs into and across the U.S.

Other parts of the plan include broadening education and awareness, and expanding access to proven treatment and recovery efforts.

Trump has mused openly in recent weeks about subjecting drug dealers to the “ultimate penalty.”

The president told the audience at a Pennsylvania campaign rally this month that countries such as Singapore have fewer issues with drug addiction because they harshly punish their dealers. He argued that a person in the U.S. can get the death penalty or life in prison for shooting one person, but that a drug dealer who potentially kills thousands can spend little or no time in jail.

“The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness,” Trump said in Moon Township.

The Justice Department said the federal death penalty is available for several limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the “drug kingpin” provisions of federal law.

Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it was not clear that death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose product causes multiple deaths, would be constitutional.

Berman said the issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.